Blog >> New Mexico's Horrific Hanging

  • A public hanging that drew attention to New Mexico was the bungled execution of outlaw Black Jack Ketchum in 1901. Death by hanging was mandatory punishment for murderers but Ketchum’s only crime was holding up a railroad train. Legend has it that on the morning of his execution he told the sheriff after he ate breakfast, “Let’s get this thing over with, I want to get to hell in time for dinner.” One hundred and fifty tickets had been issued for people to witness his death in a turn of events that no one could have ever imagined. As the trap door of the scaffold opened the hangman’s noose jolted back severing Ketchum’s head from his body. His headless body lay beneath the scaffold, while his head was still hanging in the noose. Black Jack Ketchum’s hanging was one of the most horrific examples of capital punishment in this country.